In Rethinking Hegemonic Masculinity in a Globalizing World (2008) Christine Beasley provides a critique and reconceptualization of R. W. Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinities. A central concern of Beasley with hegemonic masculinity is Connell’s depiction of the pinnacle of hegemonic masculinity being “transnational business masculinity” (92). For Beasley “Connell’s approach is insufficiently tied to demonstrating how transnational business masculinities have achieved a hegemonic role specifically in relation to the gender order” (93). She further states that “it is not clear how one would assess whether any particular version of masculinity has an over-arching legitimating function” (93). Beasley may be correct that Connell does not sufficiently provide an explanation for why the hegemon in hegemonic masculinity is transnational business. However we may turn to C. J. Pascoe’s Dude, You’re a Fag’: Adolescent Masculinity and the Fag Discourse (2005) and Alesha Durfee’s I’m Not a Victim, She’s an Abuser’: Masculinity, Victimization, and Protection Orders (2011) in considering how an assessment of over-arching forms of masculinity may be carried out.
Neither Pascoe nor Durfee approach hegemonic masculinity as being exemplified by transnational business but instead, paralleling with the rethinking of hegemonic masculinity put forth by Beasley, their writing emphasizes that hegemonic masculinity is established through discourse. Pascoe’s research foregrounds how “[t]he relationship between adolescent masculinity and sexuality is embedded in the spectre of the faggot” whereby “American adolescent boys become masculine through the continual repudiation of a ‘fag’ identity” (329). This ‘becoming’ masculine is largely a discursive movement as it aligns with cultural norms of masculinity which Pascoe shows through recognizing ‘fag’ discourses as racialized. Particularly Pascoe discusses the differences between white and African-American boys in how they understand masculinities regarding clothing (340) and dancing (341) and how this alters their usage of ‘fag’ discourses. For Pascoe, the fag discourse is not necessarily about ones sexuality, but a form of discourses which polices the boundaries of masculinity. Despite Pascoe not using the term hegemonic masculinities within her article, we may see from her work how ‘fag’ discourses reveal a form of masculinity which has an over-arching legitimating function – producing heterosexuality as a quality of the hegemon.
Similarly, Durfee’s I’m Not a Victim, She’s an Abuser researches how men tend to reaffirm the ideals of hegemonic masculinity even while filing petitions for domestic violence civil protection orders. In navigating “a paradoxical social context… one where men are seen as perpetrators of domestic violence, not victims, while at the same time men are increasingly claiming victimization” (317), Durfee writes that “men carefully balance the two identities of “victim” and “man” by describing their victimization in ways that allow them to conform to ideals of hegemonic masculinity” (319). She highlights three main themes which reveal the influence of hegemonic masculinity in men’s abuse narrative (323). First men portray themselves as having been assaulted yet not victims, second they are careful to describe that they are neither the abuser nor abusive, and finally they did not express a fear of their partner. Durfee’s highlights the paradox of this as they are “telling their stories to obtain court orders. There are clear incentives to present oneself as a victim and one’s partner as an abuser. However, the majority of narratives analyzed here do not support this hypothesis” (329).
Both Pascoe and Durfee used hegemonic masculinity in a manner that did not align with Beasley’s description of the concept but instead her rethinking. I wonder whether if upon reading Connell’s work on hegemonic masculinity I would find that Beasley has misread the work or that Pascoe and Durfee are using hegemonic masculinity in a different manner than Connell’s proposal. On a different, and final, point both Pascoe and Durfee’s research produced results which ran counter to claims of inclusive masculinities and postfeminism, as discussed and contrasted by Rachel O’Neill in Whither Critical Masculinity Studies?: Notes on Inclusive Masculinity Theory, Postfeminism, and Sexual Politics (2015). Both Pascoe and Durfee’s work separately is sufficient to make inclusive masculinity and postfeminist researchers reconsider whether we are indeed in times of inclusive masculinity and postfeminism.
Beasley, Christine. 2008. “Rethinking Hegemonic Masculinity in a Globalizing World.” Men and Masculinities 11: 86-103.
Durfee, Alesha. 2011. “‘I’m Not a Victim, She’s an Abuser’: Masculinity, Victimization, and Protection Orders.” Gender & Society 25(3):316-334.
O’Neill, Rachel. 2015. “Whither Critical Masculinity Studies?: Notes on Inclusive Masculinity Theory, Postfeminism, and Sexual Politics.” Men and Masculinities 18(1): 100-120.
Pascoe, C. J. 2005. “‘Dude, You’re a Fag’: Adolescent Masculinity and the Fag Discourse.” Sexualities 8: 329-346.